This is a thing I wrote about 9/11 in 2011 over in the journal world in which I live. Seemed worth updating and posting over here.
So, here we are, 13 years since. I was still in Colorado at the time, although the plans to move East were in the works. My reconnaissance trip to New England had gone well earlier in the summer (the last time I flew), and Alpha Reader and I were feeling good about the upcoming change of scenery.
On that 11th of September I was delivering a chair that AR had repaired to a customer and had yet to hear anything about what had happened close to 2,000 miles away. When I knocked on the customer’s door, though, I was greeted by a stunned and grieving couple who were surprised I didn’t know. (I was listening to music in the Jeep, safe in my little cocoon.) I caught a glimpse of their tv and the chaos it was showing, but only a glimpse.
Arriving home, AR and I listened to NPR the rest of the day learning about what had happened. He was angry, ready for something to be done. I was troubled more than angry, afraid of what Bush and his cronies were going to do with this event, and as the days went by, any anger I had was aimed at them, at their mad rush for retribution, their if-you’re-not-for-us-you’re-against-us mentality, at their successful grab for power and the American people’s stupid willingness to go along with everything they wanted.
And that’s where my anger remains focused. Maybe it’s because I was 2,000 miles away, and that I never liked the Twin Towers as architecture anyway, that their destruction really didn’t cause me grief. I’m sorry for the thousands of innocent people who lost their lives or became ill; all they were doing was going to work or trying to help people. But I had no connection with any of them. The only person who died that day I had even a vague connection to was Mark Bingham. I was friends with his grandmother (who had died several years before 2001) and had met his mom once when the two women visited us in California. So, the grief I feel isn’t for the people gone.
I grieve for what happened to the country I was born in. I was raised to believe that ours was the greatest experiment in democracy ever created. If you read the preamble to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, it’s hard not to believe that. The tools are there, all the rules laid out for a country of, by, and for the people. Us people. You. Me. Everyone who died on 9/11/01.
But the real tragedy of 9/11 is that the people, in our fear of the bogeyman, decided that our rulers were smarter than us and deserved to have whatever tools were necessary to keep us safe from, you know, them–those foreign people who want to destroy our way of life. So we let our rulers do just that. By passing and continuing to extend the Patriot Act, we became a different country. We became a country that thinks it’s patriotic to report our neighbor’s “suspicious activity,” that thinks it’s okay to have a security force in a mall that can take you downstairs to their interrogation rooms and hold you without cause, that thinks anyone who doesn’t look like us or goes to a different kind of building to worship their god is, or should be, a suspect.
To be honest, that was the country I was born in, too. We were just coming out of the McCarthy Era when I was born. The Civil Rights Act had yet to be passed. But that era of suspicion and jingoism was fading, at least a little, and the revolution of civil rights for everyone was underway. Optimism was growing that the US might actually live up to what its founders, perhaps unintentionally, put into motion.
I have no more optimism. The democracy I thought I lived in died with the Supreme Court’s installation of George W. Bush in the White House in 2000. Its corpse was immolated when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of corporations in the Citizens United case. Just the fact that President Obama spent $1 billion to be re-elected in 2012 should tell you all you need to know about who rules this country and where the power lies. The power no longer lies with us people, if it ever really did. It lies with them: the money men, the oil companies, the multinational corporations who are perfectly happy to watch the rest of us become less educated and more apathetic, believing the lies that the corporately-controlled media throw at us.
We are falling for the divide and conquer strategy that has been used by people in power for centuries. We should all be working together, fighting together, to take down the people who want to own all the land, all the water, all the profit, and who want to turn the rest of us into serfs (And this isn’t just happening in the US, mind you. What do you think all the debt/deficit crises in Europe are about?).
That, really, is what I’d like to see people take away from 9/11 and the years that have passed. We’re told by the media every year to remember those people who died, to remember this day. I think the best way to do that is to fight to regain what has been taken from us, to fight to take back the rights that have been stolen from us, to remember that by giving up liberty for security, we lose both. The enemy is not the union teacher or the millions of unemployed. The enemy is the corporations, the money men behind the White House, the Congress, and the Supreme Court, as well as the corrupt bastards who work in those buildings. Better to go down fighting than to go down with nothing more than a whimper.